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Puerto Rico’s Super Bowl Connection

Millions will watch on Super Bowl Sunday as the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos.

The head coach of the Panthers is Ron Rivera, a Californian of Puerto Rican heritage. His father was one of the many Puerto Rican servicemen in the United States Army, and Ron Rivera and his three brothers grew up on military bases. It’s often said that Ron brings a military level of discipline and drive to his work in football.

Rivera attended the University of California Berkeley on a football scholarship, playing as a linebacker for the California Golden Bears. He was an All-American linebacker and a Lombardi Award Winner, and he held multiple records in tackles and sacks, including the record he still holds: most tackles for  loss.  He then played for the Chicago Bears for nine seasons. He was a member of the team that won Super Bowl XX, making him the first Puerto Rican championship pro football player. During his time as a National Football League player, Rivera was named Bears’ Man of the Year and earned the club’s Ed Block Courage Award in 1989.

Rivera went on to coach the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles. He returned to the Bears as Defensive Coordinator in 2004 and gained national recognition for his work there, which led to another Super Bowl appearance for the Bears.  In 2006, Rivera moved on to the San Diego Chargers, and then to his current team, the Carolina Panthers, in 2011.

There he led the team to six wins in 2011, seven in 2012, and the division championship in 2013.

Rivera was named Associated Press coach of the year in 2013. In 2014, he brought his team to the first repeat championship in the NFC South.

Rivera will be just the second Latino Super Bowl coach in history, and Charlotte’s Latino community is excited about that, according to an NPR report on an exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South on the way that Hispanic Americans are changing the face of the South. Traditionally, Hispanic sports fans in North Carolina have been more focused on soccer, but this year, they’re turning to football.

If the Panthers win, Rivera will be the second winning Latino Super Bowl coach.

Rivera and his wife Stephanie have two children.


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